Australians are notoriously tough on their own but over 20 years of international raids on the Melbourne Cup had shown they can be especially scathing on overseas riders so the view that Ryan Moore is world racing's top jockey right now only deepened with a victory for Protectionist in the "race that stops a nation" which had critics eating out of the Englishman's hand.
Comparisons with Lester Piggott were even being thrown around after Protectionist shot clear of the remarkable veteran Red Cadeaux who finished a Melbourne Cup runner-up for a third time in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The victory added Germany to Ireland, France and Japan on the list of countries to have successfully plundered Australia’s most coveted sporting prize. Yet while there’s increasing resignation as to the fate of their native stayers Down Under in comparison to Europe’s best, there’s still nothing like a fancy Euro jockey to get Aussie fans riled up.
Two previous Cup failures aboard Mount Athos and Dandino resulted in flak whistling around Moore’s head of a sort that European luminaries like Kinane, Dettori and Murtagh would have recognised too well from their own experiences. But just a couple of weeks after striking in Australia’s greatest weight-for-age race, the Cox Plate, on board Aidan O’Brien’s Adelaide, Moore completed an outrageous double on Protectionist and did it in typical low-key style.
Not for Moore any whip-waving, crowd pleasing theatricals: if comparisons to “Old Stone Face” Piggott are the ultimate in professional praise, there is a similar reluctance on the 31-year-old’s part to indulge in any PR game., even if taciturnity usually emerges as professional seriousness rather than the reputed contrariness of Piggott’s pomp.
“Don’t get too excited and look for the next disappointment,” was how he summarised his professional philosophy to the local Melbourne media, a typically understated but drily witty comment which might not be camera-friendly but which does have the virtue of both straight-forwardness and substance behind it.
Protectionist, trained to the minute by Andreas Wohler, was Moore's 19th Group 1 success in the last 12 months, a tally secured in eight countries, and on four continents. Any sceptic about Moore's status as the world's number one who points to how having the pick of so many powerful strings means he gets on the best horses might do well to remember it's no coincidence he has such a pick.
In a game where not getting it wrong when it counts is perhaps even more important than getting it spectacularly right, Moore’s mistakes are rare, and even rarer in the biggest events. Events don’t come much bigger than the Melbourne Cup although the man himself wasn’t trotting out platitudes for locals with bruised feelings at a sixth international Cup success in two decades.
“I wouldn’t put the win above an Arc, or a Derby,” he said before conceding a little diplomacy. “But it’s not behind them either.”
Moore’s low-key preference wasn’t hindered in the Cup aftermath as attention switched to news that two horses, including the Japanese favourite, Admire Rakti, were dead. The latter finished last and suffered a suspected heart-attack when being unsaddled in his stable while also after the race an exuberant fan waved a flag at Araldo (7th) who spooked and sustained fatal leg injuries when colliding with a rail.
Johnny Murtagh's two hopes Mutual Regard and Royal Diamond finished out of the money and Mutual Regard's jockey Damien Oliver reported: "He moved into it nicely on the turn but he just pulled too hard and had nothing left for the finish."
Red Cadeaux's third runner up placing echoes Youmzain's trio of Arc seconds and left Ed Dunlop describing him as "the greatest bridesmaid ever." Since Dunlop knows Moore's abilities better than most, he might try to get his compatriot on board when Red Cadeaux tries again in 2015. Competition for those services however has never been greater.